Terry McLaurin is one of the NFL draft’s top steals over the last decade

McLaurin went from a third-round pick to one of the NFL’s best wide receivers.

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It didn’t take long for former Washington head coach Jay Gruden to know what he had in Terry McLaurin. Washington selected McLaurin with the No. 76 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

When training camp began, Gruden immediately saw McLaurin wouldn’t just be a contributor in his first NFL season. After he was selected, NFL draft analysts said McLaurin would be an outstanding special-teamer immediately. However, in the preseason, Gruden kept McLaurin under wraps, unleashing him in Week 1 as Washington’s No. 1 wide receiver.

In his NFL debut, McLaurin caught five passes for 125 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown catch from Case Keenum. McLaurin would’ve gone for 200 yards, or more, had Keenum not missed him for another wide-open potential score later in the game as McLaurin raced past the Philly secondary.

McLaurin would finish his rookie season with 58 receptions for 919 yards and seven touchdowns. Had it not been for Washington’s quarterback issues, McLaurin would’ve gone over 1,000 yards as a rookie.

Since 2019, McLaurin has had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, catching passes from 10 different quarterbacks. Last summer, he signed a three-year extension, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid wide receivers.

ESPN recently named the top 50 draft steals over the last decade. McLaurin was ranked No. 29, with ESPN offering the following:

Scary Terry has been terrorizing NFC East cornerbacks since falling to the Commanders at No. 76 overall based on concerns about a lack of production and whether the Ohio State scheme created his openings. Yet McLaurin has eclipsed over 900 yards in each of his four seasons while becoming a top-tier deep threat for Washington.

That was Matt Miller’s assessment, by the way. Miller has an interesting track record in his analysis of current Washington players. We could argue that McLaurin should’ve been higher than No. 29. As always, though, we remind you that rankings are subjective.

A.J. Brown was the No. 51 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. McLaurin and Brown have put up comparable numbers, except that Brown has scored more touchdowns. The lack of touchdowns from McLaurin is a byproduct of questionable quarterback play. Additionally, Brown has played on better teams. ESPN ranked Brown as the No. 19 draft steal.

Regardless, both are phenomenal players.

The Commanders have enjoyed success from the third round and later in recent years, with McLaurin being the crown jewel.

Josh Jacobs may hold out until Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season

Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders are at contract stalemate right now, which could lead to a holdout

After leading the NFL in rushing last season, Las Vegas Raiders running-back, [autotag]Josh Jacobs[/autotag], is looking to be paid as one of the best running backs in the league, and deservedly so. Jacobs was the Raiders’ No. 24 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft and agreed to a five-year deal with the final year being a team option.

Entering the 2022 season, Jacobs’ fourth year in the league, Las Vegas declined to pick up his fifth-year option which would have allowed for Jacobs to be a free agent this summer. Unfortunately for Jacobs, the Raiders placed the franchise tag on him for 2023 which will pay him around $10.1 million.

However, reports indicate that Jacobs was frustrated by this move as he has been in search of a long-term deal. If the Raiders and the former Alabama running back can’t come to a long-term deal by the season then Jacobs will hit the free agency market in 2024, where he would have no shortage of suitors.

On the Rich Eisen Show, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero shared his uncertainty about Jacobs’ future saying, “The one that nobody’s talking about is Josh Jacobs, the reigning NFL rushing champion. At this point, if there’s not a long-term deal, I don’t anticipate Josh Jacobs being there at the start of training camp and I don’t know that he shows up in Week 1.”

Unless a deal is reached, there is a very possible chance that Jacobs may hold out well into the season.

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Former Panthers 2nd-round pick signs with Texans

Former Panthers second-round pick Greg Little is moving on to his third team in five seasons.

Doesn’t it seem like the Carolina Panthers drafted Greg Little way longer than four years ago?

Nonetheless, the former second-round selection is on to his third team in five seasons—having agreed to a deal with the Houston Texans. Little’s agent, David Canter of GSE Worldwide, broke the news on Twitter earlier this afternoon.

The Ole Miss offensive tackle was pursued by the Panthers at Pick No. 37 in 2019, a position they swapped up to thanks to the Seattle Seahawks. In return for the 10-spot jump, Carolina shipped off that year’s 47th selection—one used on Utah safety Marquise Blair—as well as the 77th, which was then flipped by Seattle to trade up for eventual Pro Bowl wide receiver DK Metcalf.

Little went on to appear in 14 games for the Panthers between 2019 and 2020. Then, prior to the 2021 campaign, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a 2022 seventh-round pick—one that eventually turned into Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes.

After his 2021 was cut short due to injury, Little played in all 17 games for the Dolphins in 2022. He recorded seven starts and 528 offensive snaps, with 243 coming at left tackle and 285 coming from the right.

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Texans RT Tytus Howard shares encouragement ahead of 2023 NFL draft

Houston Texans right tackle Tytus Howard tweeted positivity for the 2023 NFL draft class, drawing upon his own experience in 2019.

The Houston Texans reached for Tytus Howard.

That was the prevailing narrative when the Texans drafted the Alabama State tackle No. 23 overall in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL draft.

Houston was merely compensating because they missed out on Andre Dillard. That debate was quickly over by the end of their respective rookie years as Howard earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America’s all-rookie team.

Howard reflected on his underdog story Thursday evening and took to Twitter to give the 2023 class encouragement.

“Didn’t get an invite to the draft,” Howard wrote. “They told me I couldn’t get a camera crew until day 2. Still proving everyone who wrote me off wrong. You control your own destiny just put the work in. #NFLDraft2023”

Howard has started all 54 games active for the Texans since 2019.

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DeAndre Baker named Giants’ worst first-round pick since 2000

Pro Football Network names CB DeAndre Baker as the New York Giants’ worst first-round pick since 2000.

What has been the New York Giants’ worst first-round draft choice of the 21st Century?

According to Ian Valentino of Pro Football Network, it was the selection of Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker in 2019.

In general, the New York Giants’ drafts have brought back either a solid player or a non-contributor over the last 22 years.

The worst two picks by the franchise were significant misses, even considering their track record. Baker played poorly as a rookie due to limited athleticism, had off-field issues, and then had a gruesome non-contact knee injury. He was the first player drafted in the top 64 released from his class.

The Giants’ 2012 first-rounder, David Wilson, ran for only 504 yards in two years with the team before injuries sunk his career. He was taken before Mitchell Schwartz, Janoris Jenkins, and Alshon Jeffrey.

Runner-up: David Wilson (2012)

The Giants traded back into the first round in 2019 to select Baker, the Jim Thorpe Award winner in 2018 as the nation’s top corner, giving Seattle three picks (37th, 132nd and 142nd) to do so.

Baker was a disaster from Day 1 and not only was he not long for the Giants, but they also lost out on several key mid-round draft picks as well. It was a complete lose-lose situation all the way around — on and off the field.

Wilson simply was a speedy home run hitter who was better suited for track and field than the NFL. He sustained a neck injury early on with the Giants and was forced to retire from football.

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XFL: Former Seahawk Gary Jennings scores TD on fake punt in STL win

The Battlehawks win, thanks to a former Seahawks 2019 draft pick

Much to the dismay of the Seattle Sea Dragons, their division rivals the St. Louis Battlehawks prevailed once more… thanks, in part, to a former Seattle Seahawk draft pick.

In one of the more exciting comebacks of the XFL season, the Battlehawks outlasted the Las Vegas Vipers – who put up stiff resistance – by a score of 21-17 in two rounds of overtime. In the XFL, overtime is alternating 2-point conversion attempts. Each team gets at least three attempts, and St. Louis capitalized on their first two while Vegas did not.

However, it was a long process to even force overtime. Things did not look good for the Battlehawks, who trailed 17-8 with a little over five minutes left in the game. Facing a 4th-and-6, St. Louis dug deep in the playbook dialed up the right call.

The receiver who caught the pass was none other than former Seattle Seahawks draft pick Gary Jennings. Originally selected by the Seahawks in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Jennings did not play for Seattle in a regular season game. He then bounced around the league from practice squad to practice squad, unable to find a permanent home.

Now, he is helping his XFL team win games. Unfortunately, at the expense of Seattle, who truly needs to win against the DC Defenders on Sunday evening.

27 Days, 27 Picks: LB Devin White

The next entry in our 27 Days, 27 Picks series features a player who the jury still might be out on in Tampa Bay:

In 27 Days, 27 Picks, Bucs Wire will analyze the last 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft picks, one for each day leading up to the 2023 NFL draft. We’ll take a look at the player’s college stats, their pre-draft numbers (either via the NFL Combine or their Pro Day), their NFL stats, some player footage and analysis at the end on whether the pick itself was a good one.

Our next entry is a somewhat controversial one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans will always remember LB Devin White for his Super Bowl run, but the 2019 first-round pick has also raised questions from fans and pundits alike after some rough stretches of play over the last two years.

Check out the draft rundown for [autotag]Devin White[/autotag] below:

Film Review: Breaking down new Lions DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Film Review: Breaking down new Lions DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson and how the Lions can use his skills

On Sunday night, the Detroit Lions made a surprising move by signing safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $8 million dollars and it is being labeled as a “prove it” deal for one of the most talented safeties in the NFL.

Last season, Gardner-Johnson was tied for the league lead of six interceptions. Ranked up there with Justin Simmons, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Tariq Woolen, it was pretty surprising that CGJ didn’t land a long-term deal.

Maybe he’ll prove himself in Detroit and Brad Holmes will give him the contract he deserves. Time will tell. For now, let’s jump into the tape and review how Gardner-Johnson fits the Detroit Lions!

Playing near the box 

Last season, Gardner-Johnson played just about everywhere for the Philadelphia Eagles. In total, he played 873 total snaps. Just over 200 of the snaps came from playing in the box while another 208 of them came from covering the slot. You’ll see from the clips below how he plays aggressive but is also active with his hands and feet to always be involved with the play.

Looking at the play above, you’ll see Gardner-Johnson (Eagles DB #23) start to creep up into the box. As the Cowboys run a toss play out of an off-set I-formation, you’ll notice how Gardner-Johnson flows laterally to the football. He works his hands by pushing off the initial block attempt from the tight end.

Meanwhile, he stays in position with the proper pursuit angle and play speed. As the running back prepares to cut-back inside, he’s met by Gardner-Johnson who tackles with his inside shoulder to then drag the ballcarrier to the ground.

Staying with the same game against the Cowboys, you’ll notice how Gardner-Johnson (Eagles DB #23) is aligned over the C-gap. Shaded to inside shoulder of the tight end, Gardner-Johnson is aligned in what is called a 50.

From this, he could very well be watching the wide receiver that’s aligned as an H-back, the tight end or the running back. His coverages would depend on what potential zone he may have or who would have to cover in man coverage.

That said, this is a run play and Gardner-Johnson does a great job stacking the receiver and attempting to shed him as the running back tries to get to the slightly open hole. But by staying square, the running back is met by Gardner-Johnson for a tackle. It’s worth noting that Gardner-Johnson had to come out after this play due to either a wrist or hand injury. The Cowboys went on to sustain their drive after he came off the field and it ended up in a touchdown.

Effort with tremendous ball skills 

As I mentioned earlier, Gardner-Johnson was tied for the league lead of six interceptions this past season. In addition to the interceptions, he also had four pass breakups. While he did give up 41 receptions for 338 yards and four touchdowns (per PFF), there was a lot asked out of him in Philadelphia.

Even when he gave up a reception, he came back the next play with great energy and effort. The energy he plays with is captivating and it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s a reason to why the Lions wanted him part of their defense.

Taking a look at one of his interceptions, the play above showcases one against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. You’ll notice that the Eagles run Cover 1 against the twins right formation from the Cardinals. In the middle of the field as the free safety, you’ll see Gardner-Johnson (Eagles DB #23) have free range on the middle of the field.

As the wide receiver runs the deep post, Gardner-Johnson floats to the deep middle and reads the ball the entire step of the way. While it’s a bit under thrown, he still does a great job intercepting the pass.

Just talking about effort, the play above screams the type of effort that we’ll get from Gardner-Johnson in Detroit. After getting banged up and missing plays from back-to-back offensive series from the Cowboys, it was like Gardner-Johnson (Eagles DB #23) went to the bench and knew he had to make a play to ensure his team takes over the game.

In the play above, Gardner-Johnson is aligned as the free safety while the Eagles run Cover 1 on defense again. While the quarterback attempts this throw off play-action, it’s severely under-thrown but that doesn’t stop an interception from happening.

With great effort, you’ll see how Gardner-Johnson reads the ball in the air and makes a spectacular diving catch. As he secures the interception, he gets up and runs toward midfield to give the offense a chance to pull ahead in a tight rivalry game.

Overall thoughts and fit with Detroit

When I got the news that Gardner-Johnson had signed with Detroit, I thought I was getting pranked. I triple-checked multiple accounts on Twitter to ensure that it was true. In fact, I even had my wife tap me on the shoulder to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

As one of my favorite players from the 2019 NFL Draft, I felt like CGJ was a Day 2 prospect. He lasted until the 4th round and went 105th overall to the New Orleans Saints. No matter where he’s been, he’s made an impact. I expect the same to happen in Detroit for CGJ.

Best suited to play near the box, in the slot or even as a buzz defender, there will be multiple hats for him to wear in Detroit. By bringing him into the mix, it allows a player such as Tracy Walker to not rush back from his achilles injury and it should only help further the development of Kerby Joseph. The effort that Gardner-Johnson plays with is contagious and it should rub off onto his teammates. With him signing in Detroit over other teams, maybe it’s a sign that the times are indeed changing.

Chargers waive DT Jerry Tillery

Tom Telesco’s 2019 first-round pick is no longer a Charger.

Tom Telesco’s 2019 first-round pick is no longer a Charger.

The team announced Thursday that it had waived defensive lineman Jerry Tillery. The move comes after Tillery did not practice this week due to a personal matter, per the injury report. The former Notre Dame standout was also nursing a back injury suffered during a bye-week lifting session.

It’s the end of a disappointing tenure for Tillery, who never found his footing as a full-time starter after being selected with the No. 28 pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Many fans criticized him for his shortcomings as a run defender when asked to play all three downs. Still, this season especially, Tillery was one of the few defensive linemen able to generate pressure on quarterbacks from the interior.

The move leaves L.A. with Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, Otito Ogbonnia, Christian Covington, and Breiden Fehoko as its healthy defensive linemen. Austin Johnson was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with the knee injury he suffered against the Falcons.

Former Packers TE Jace Sternberger wrote this epic tweet about Terry McLaurin and Green Bay

Jace Sternberger was the No. 75 overall pick by the Packers in 2019 — one pick before Washington chose Terry McLaurin. Green Bay fans often remind Sternberger of this.

Can you imagine if the Green Bay Packers had drafted former Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin with the No. 75 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft?

Green Bay fans have often imagined what would have happened if quarterback Aaron Rodgers was throwing passes to Davante Adams and Terry McLaurin over the past few years. Sure, Adams is gone now, but if the Packers had selected McLaurin, he’d be their No. 1 wide receiver.

Instead, Green Bay chose former Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger at No. 75. In two years with the Packers, he appeared in 18 games, catching 12 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. He was released in Sept. 2021.

The Seattle Seahawks signed Sternberger to their practice squad two days later. In a twist of irony, Washington then signed Sternberger to its active roster on Oct. 6 after multiple injuries at tight end. The team waived him one month later.

The Steelers later signed Sternberger, but he was waived over the summer and is now out of football.

Sternberger maintains an active presence on Twitter, and during Sunday’s game between the Packers and Commanders, he sent out a tweet for the ages.

He’s right. But Washington fans are certainly happy Green Bay messed that one up. Kudos to Sternberger for poking fun at himself on this one.